Greek Goddess Artemis: Epithets & Attributes

Instructor: Eve Levinson

Eve has taught various courses of high school history and has a master's degree in education.

Artemis was the Greek Goddess of the hunt, wilderness, and animals. She was also the goddess of the life cycle, watching over childbirth, girl children, and sudden death and disease.

Artemis' Birth

The origin stories of many Greek gods trace back to the relationship between Zeus & Hera. They married while Leto was pregnant with Zeus' twins, which infuriated Hera. Hera ensured that Leto would not be able to give birth anywhere on Earth. People so feared Hera that they refused to help Leto. Instead, Zeus formed a floating island called Delos to offer her refuge. But it was not until Leto anchored the island that the natives of Delos offered her shelter.

Olympian Gods, Artemis on the Right
Olympian Gods, Artemis on the Right

Leto's twins, Artemis and Apollo became two of the twelve Olympian Gods, the most powerful of all the divine figures in ancient Greece. The older of the babies, Artemis, demonstrated her power right away and acted as midwife in the delivery of her brother.

Ancient Depictions

Art from ancient Greece often depicted the gods as a way to worship and recount their stories. Though dressed in usual women's dress of the era, Artemis was identifiable by a number of details. She was typically pictured as a beautiful young woman with a bow and arrow. Even more indicative, Artemis was often placed beside a stag, which was the animal most closely connected to her. Often she was shown with the live animal as pictured below, but she was also occasionally shown with a deer skin that implied her hunting prowess.

Artemis with a Stag
Artemis with a Stag

Divine Qualities

The Olympians presided over every aspect of humanity, their benevolence and vengefulness inspired worship and fear. Each god or goddess became known for a particular aspect of life, as well as watching over additional qualities. Artemis was primarily known as the goddess of the hunt, wilderness, and animals.

Orion as a Constellation
Orion as a Constellation

In one of her most well-known myths, she and Orion were hunting companions. She had also fallen in love with him, even though she had been granted eternal chastity. But Apollo was jealous of his sister's relationship and challenged her to a hunting contest. She aimed her perfect shot at the distant target Apollo had assigned only to learn that the object was actually Orion's head. Artemis grieved the giant and put him into the sky as a constellation.

Goddess of the Feminine

In Greek, Artemis means feminine, and as such, she presided over many elements of women's lives. She aided her mother, Leto, in childbirth, becoming the goddess of childbirth herself. She also asked her father, Zeus, to grant her eternal virginity, so she came to watch over chastity. That is what made her feelings for and grief over Orion so remarkable amongst the stories; he had won her heart and she considered him worthy of the same devotion she had to hunting and nature. Overall, she protected girls and unmarried women, yet also decided women's sudden death and disease.

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